Stunning new 3D simulation of carbon moving through the planet's atmosphere
- Visualization shows how CO2 increased and decreased from Sept 2014-2015
- It also reveals how the greenhouse gas traveled throughout the world
- The data could help scientists to understand the areas that drive absorption
A hypnotic new 3D visualization reveals the swirling patterns of carbon dioxide as it travels around the world.
The simulation revealed today by NASA shows how concentrations of the greenhouse gas fluctuated between September 2014 and September 2015.
The data could help scientists to answer critical questions on where these emissions are absorbed by the land and ocean, and how these areas will continue to carry out this role as CO2 rises.
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A hypnotic new 3D visualization reveals the swirling patterns of carbon dioxide as it travels around the world. The simulation revealed today by NASA shows how concentrations of the greenhouse gas fluctuated between September 2014 and September 2015
METHANE EMISSIONS SPIKE
A study published in the journal Earth System Science Data found that levels of methane in the air rose slowly from 2000 to 2006, but climbed ten times more quickly over the following decade, according to the new research.
The unexpected - and largely unexplained - increase was especially sharp in 2014 and 2015.
With only 1°C (1.8°F) of warming above pre-industrial era levels so far, the world has seen an uptick in extreme weather, including droughts, superstorms, heat waves and coastal flooding boosted by rising seas.
On current trends, average global temperatures are on track to jump by more than 3°C (5.4°F) by 2100, even if national carbon-cutting pledges annexed to the Paris Agreement are honoured.
The high-resolution visualization is part of the space agency’s new supercomputer project, which combines satellite measurements of CO2 with a sophisticated Earth system model.
It was generated by the Global Modeling and Assimilation Office, and uses data from the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite.
This has revealed the complex patterns of both increasing and decreasing CO2 concentrations as it moves around the globe.
It’s so far known that nearly half of all human-caused CO2 emissions are absorbed by the land and ocean.
And, roughly 50 percent of emissions remain in the atmosphere.
What’s less understood is which ecosystems are absorbing what amounts of the gas, and whether the land and ocean will continue to absorb at the same rate as emissions rise, or if they will reach a point of saturation.
To answer these questions, scientists must understand what drives the ‘carbon flux,’ the exchange of CO2 among the atmosphere, land, and ocean.
‘We can’t measure the flux directly at high resolution across the entire globe,’ said Lesley Ott, a carbon cycle scientist at NASA Goddard and a member of the OCO-2 science team.
‘We are trying to build the tools needed to provide an accurate picture of what’s happening in the atmosphere and translating that to an accurate picture of what’s going on with the flux.
‘There’s still a long way to go, but this is a really important and necessary step in that chain of discoveries about carbon dioxide.’
The data could help scientists to answer critical questions on where these emissions are absorbed by the land and ocean, and how these areas will continue to carry out this role as CO2 rises
The visualization shows these processes in unprecedented detail, revealing how CO2 rises and falls in the Northern Hemisphere through the year, and how different factors – including continents, mountain ranges, and ocean currents – drive its movement.
OCO-2 was launched in 2014, and is the first NASA satellite designed specifically to measure atmospheric CO2 at regional scales.
Combining the observations with the model through ‘data assimilation’ allows the researchers to visualize the best understanding of these processes yet.
‘It’s taken us many years to pull it all together,’ said GMAO chief Steven Pawson.
‘The level of detail included in this dataset gives us a lot of optimism that our models and observations are beginning to give a coherent view of the carbon cycle.’
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